The Book Was Better

On Bookshelves Now

Theaters are jammed with movies based on books--who knew?

If you visit this space occasionally you might know the high regard I have for journalist Michael Lewis and how moved I was by his story, The Blind Side, which is now an engaging movie starring Sandra Bullock, Quentin Aaron, and Tim Mcgraw. And who is not familiar with Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (updated by Tim Burton and Johnny Depp), Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (brought to life again by a most excellent Robert Downey Jr.), and Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, now a computer animation directed by Robert Zemekis, with the voice of the irrepressible Jim Carrey?

Not surprisingly there is a spate of movies with book ties (diminishing the appearance of that dubious rubric, “Based on a True Story”) in or soon to be in theaters:

Book Cover Walter Kirn’s Up in the Air apparently suffers the best fate with George Clooney in the lead and Vera Farmiga lighting up the screen.

Jon Ronson’s send-up of the American military, Men Who Stare At Goats, includes Mr. Clooney, Mr. Bridges, and Kevin Spacey.

Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and Matt Damon transform The Human Factor: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed the World by John Carlin into Invictus (based on a true story).

That reportedly enormous tear jerker, Precious, is based on the Sapphire novel Push, with Gabourey Sidibe doing a star turn and a cast that includes Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz.

Book Cover Crazy Heart, Thomas Cobb’s novel about a busted-down country singer, features Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and a cameo by that old mustang Robert Duvall.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold was a bestseller about an unusual 14-year-old (I am not going to give away the story); Mark Wahlberg and the eyeful Rachel Weisz star.

I didn’t read Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic novel The Road, preferring to read Jim Crace’s apocalyptic novel The Pesthouse. Viggo Mortenson and Kodi Smit McPhee star in John Hillcoat’s rendition of McCarthy’s darker-than-dark tale.

South Africa circa 1985 is the setting for Robert Harvey’s The Fall of Apartheid, and director Pete Tavers and writer Matthew Connolly transform it into Endgame with William Hurt and Chiwetel Ejiofer.

Book Cover The Tolstoi’s last years were the focus of The Last Station, Jay Parini’s fictional account. Even if you don’t care about the great Russian, a cast with Christopher Plummer and the always formidable Helen Mirren is worth the price of a ticket.

And if you can wait until 2012, you may see James Ellroy’s White Jazz, set in 1950s LA, appear on what used to be called the silver screen.

That’s all folks.
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